Four $5,000 Scholarships and One $1,000 Scholarship Will Enable These Goal-Oriented Students to Pursue Their College and Career Goals

Del Mar, CA …      The Don Diego Fund has awarded $21,000 in college scholarships to five outstanding, college-bound high school seniors. Each year, the Fund provides financial support to deserving San Diego County youth who have been associated with activities at the Del Mar Fairgrounds and plan to pursue higher education.

Each $5,000 scholarship is awarded to a senior in one of four categories. The 2009 recipients and categories are: Adelaide Dyer, FFA; Caylee Falvo, Employee; Kelsey Gilmore, 4-H; and Arianna Lasche, Exhibitor. Mark Brashear Simpson, 4-H, received a $1,000 scholarship.

In addition to graduating with high grade point averages (GPAs), these students accumulated hours of school activities and community service while garnering diverse honors and amassing exceptional accomplishments. All five Don Diego Fund scholars as well as Fund donors will be recognized at a July 2 Dinner and Concert Gala at the San Diego County Fair, details of which are on the website at www.dondiegofund.org. Tickets for the Gala are available at a variety of levels.

According to Chana Mannen, Executive Director of The Don Diego Fund, the annual scholarship selection process is rigorous and competitive. She notes, “This year, dozens of students from schools around the county submitted an application, personal essay, letters of recommendation, statement of need and other material. Twelve semi-finalists were invited to participate in personal panel interviews. The process is comprehensive,” she believes, stressing that it evaluates prospective recipients on many criteria. Mannen praises the Don Diego Class of 2009 as “exuberant young adults who are passionate about pursuing higher education and eager to give back to their community.”

Adelaide-DyerAdelaide Dyer grew up on a 200-acre ranch in Alpine. While maintaining a GPA of 4.37 at El Capitan High School, she has been actively involved in FFA, varsity cheerleading and ASB. Adelaide has been saving for college since fourth grade when she began raising market animals; among them breeding cows, diary heifers, market steers and pigs. “Being involved in agriculture has taught me how to be responsible and to master time management,” says this future agricultural lobbyist who plans to major in agricultural communications at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

Caylee-FalvoCaylee Ann Falvo’s five-year summer stint volunteering and working at the San Diego County Fair has given her self-confidence, she reports. Dealing with a chronic, worsening knee problem from competitive soccer inspired this inquisitive student sporting a 3.92 GPA at Sunset High School to delve into anatomy, physiology and kinesiology. Caylee plans to use the scholarship to attend UC Berkeley, where she is considering a career in sports medicine or physical therapy. One Sunset High instructor, Naida Malchiodi, says of Caylee, “This intelligent, self-directed, sensitive young woman reminds me of why I chose to teach.”

Kelsey-Gilmore-with-Merlot-the-Pygmy-GoatKelsey Gilmore has earned a GPA of 4.21 at Mountain Empire High School on her way to attending the University of California San Diego, where she intends to major in linguistics. Her major 4-H projects include rabbits, photography and home arts as well as her beloved pygmy goats. Kelsey has earned multiple 4-H awards and scholastic honors. She says, “I am proud of all I have accomplished. I have become a responsible, well-rounded young adult and can’t wait for what the future holds.”

Arianna-LascheArianna Lasche has been cooking up exhibitor awards at the Fair in everything from radishes as a Kids Best preschooler to low-calorie fudge as an adolescent. Soon she’ll be tackling a menu of challenging honors courses at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo on her way to attaining a degree in mechanical engineering. While earning a 4.23 GPA at Carlsbad High School, Arianna helped her school’s competitive dance team excel. “Leadership to me means taking the initiative to take action,” says this energetic scholar. She reveals that her ultimate goal is “to work for NASA and study the possibilities of future life on Mars and of protecting the Earth’s environment.”

Mark-Brashear-SimpsonMark Brashear Simpson plans to use his $1,000 scholarship to attend Chapman University, where he is interested in film production with a focus on directing. This Valley Center High School senior has entered lambs, goats, poultry, swine and cattle at the Fair while holding leadership positions within 4-H. Mark says, “I have raised almost every species that can be shown at the Fair with success, and have always taken home more value in knowledge and experience than ribbons and an auction check.”

Chana Mannen states, “Our five Don Diego Fund winners exemplify precisely what the Fund was created to recognize and reward. We are so pleased to help transform today’s outstanding students into tomorrow’s scholars, and we thank our generous donors who make these scholarships possible.”


The Don Diego Fund is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that provides annual college scholarships to outstanding San Diego County high school seniors who have participated in the San Diego County Fair or other Del Mar Fairgrounds events. The Fund was formed in 1986 as a lasting tribute to Tom Hernandez, who, in the role of Don Diego, served as the legendary goodwill ambassador of the Fair from 1947 until his death in 1984.


Over the past 23 years, the Fund has distributed $492,000 in scholarships and grants, helping 116 students attain a college degree. The Fund welcomes sponsors at diverse monetary levels, providing recognitions and benefits at all levels. Please visit the website for more information or email cmannen@sdfair.com to request a brochure.